Marina City, Chicago
Last week I was talking with a senior planner at a very large advertising agency. We stumbled onto a conversation about how the recession affected her relationships with clients and what she said deeply troubled me. She said that in order to reduce the cost of their advertising, almost all of her clients cut consumer research from their projects (before anything else). And it wasn’t that clients necessarily expected the research to come free (but I’m sure some do), it’s that they expected the agency to build campaigns and creative without it.
Couple this with the fact that most of my clients and yours can tell you how much product they sold in say, 2004, but most of them can’t definitively say why or how; or quantitatively tell you how each marketing promotion stood up to the other that year (besides dollars spent or some wonky measure of impressions purchased). Yet most clients keep repeating the same promotions and campaigns year to year without knowing this critical bit of information. And even though they need it, clients don’t like to pay for research because it rarely tracks to sales or amounts to anything more than a temporary insight into a narrow swath of their customers.
Obviously, there’s intelligence escaping collection and giant global brands walking around with serious visual impairment. And this ignorance leads many clients and agencies into a race for parity: just build whatever the ad industry is currently buzzing about.
The current AOR model is antiquated. As the needs of the client expand and executions grow fragmented among smaller agencies with more specialized skill-sets, AORs need a new proposition. So I propose a new model for the agency of record, one grounded in data collection and synthesis.
The first priority of this new agency is to entice and collect current and potential customers into a relationship model that uses game mechanics to reward participation, and recognizes and fosters fan behaviors. First and foremost, we must cease the cycle of purchasing temporary audiences.
While customers are interacting with the brand in this way, the agency must sit at the center gathering data. The agency must mature a data model to better compare marketing and advertising executions: one that includes a wide set of data points, from execution costs to consumer interactions, expressions, and engagement. This also means that all creative executions must include a call-to-action and must funnel the user into the relationship model described above.
Every interaction should generate data. Every dollar spent should track to intelligence gathering (and/or sales). And every creative execution should become reasoned experimentation with analysis and results.
As the AOR, this model must be applied to all other agencies working with the brand and therefore must have buy-in at the global level. In some ways, this is just an evolution of the typical AOR relationship: one built on an ever growing knowledge of a client’s business and customers.
Ultimately, the new AOR should deliver on these objectives:
– shaping the model for a sustained customer relationship built on game mechanics, data collection, and an understanding of fan behaviors
– templatizing a data-set for collection/capture for all creative executions across all mediums and applied to all client/agency relationships (this one is admittedly a challenge)
– storing and reporting of data (the AOR becomes the data partner of the brand)
– synthesis of data into actionable marketing executions based on past data and testable hypotheses
– insight into unexplored consumer segments and opportunities for new products
I believe Bud Caddell is pretty much spot on. Basically the partnership between the agency and the client should be more transparent and closer to ensure a more dynamic and realistic fundament for creating what needed to achieve positive results.